Meet A Discarded Son’s Martha Ellison

Martha Ellison

Isobel Fitzgerald’s mother, Martha, was born in 1835 and is the only daughter of Lewis and Matilda (Tilda) Greene of Greene Hall, near Westport in Co Mayo, Ireland. She grew up an only child, believing her twin brother, Miles, died of whooping cough at a year old. She had a typical landed gentry upbringing, living in the nursery on the third floor of Greene Hall with a nursery maid and nanny until the age of twelve. The nursery then became the schoolroom and Martha had her own governess.

Martha was ten years old when the Great Famine began and she admits to Isobel that she was wholly oblivious to the tenants on the Greene Hall estate dying of starvation, being evicted from their homes and land and leaving the estate forever. Little wonder, with her secluded upbringing, Martha defied her parents and ran away from home to marry the first man to turn her head.

That man was the Reverend Edmund Stevens who was curate in the local Church of Ireland (Anglican) parish of Ballyglas. Upon his marriage, Edmund is given his own parish – Ballybeg in Co Galway – and a son, Alfie, is born ten months after his parents’ marriage and Isobel is born in 1857. Edmund ruled his wife – and later his son and daughter – with an iron fist, but while he controls his wife, he cannot completely control his children. Alfie has always wanted to become a doctor and refuses time and again to follow his father into the church and is beaten time and again. Isobel falls pregnant following a seduction, ruining all of Edmund’s plans for her to marry well, and she is whipped, disowned and thrown out of the Glebe House.

Edmund dies suddenly of a heart attack in January 1880 and Martha and Alfie leave Ballybeg and move to Dublin. Martha believes Isobel has gone to Dublin and Alfie seizes the opportunity to study medicine at Trinity College. Martha now needs her own solicitor to administer Edmund’s estate and she is introduced to Ronald Henderson. Within a few months, they are married and Martha is mistress of a grand home at 55 Fitzwilliam Square.

Martha is reunited with Isobel in November 1880 but her joy is short-lived. Ronald dies of a heart attack in a brothel in Monto, Dublin’s red-light district. She then discovers that not only did he own the brothel, but he had been there with a man. Poor Martha doesn’t think she will ever recover from the betrayal. She had believed herself to be in love with Ronald but Ronald had married her solely for companionship.

Solicitor, James Ellison, is a widower in his fifties and was Ronald’s business partner for thirty years. He settles Ronald’s estate but continues to call to number 55 on one flimsy pretext or another and appears to be courting Martha. Isobel confronts James as it is only a couple of months since Ronald’s death. James admits he and Martha are deeply in love, he knows they must be circumspect, and that when a year has passed since Ronald’s death, he will marry Martha.

A Discarded Son begins on Martha’s wedding day. Can Martha’s marriage to James Ellison be third time lucky for her?

Martha Ellison

Dublin, Ireland, 1881. Isobel Fitzgerald’s mother, Martha, marries solicitor James Ellison but an unexpected guest overshadows their wedding day. Martha’s father is dying and he is determined to clear his conscience before it is too late. Lewis Greene’s confession ensures the Ellisons’ expectation of a quiet married life is gone and that Isobel’s elder brother, Alfie Stevens, will be the recipient of an unwelcome inheritance.

When a bewildering engagement notice is published in The Irish Times, the name of one of the persons concerned sends Will and Isobel on a race against time across Dublin and forces them to break a promise and reveal a closely guarded secret.

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Read an Excerpt from Chapter One…

As soon as they returned to number 55, Mrs Ellison insisted on speaking to her in private and, reluctantly, Isobel followed her mother into the morning room. Closing the door, she looked at the hearth. A fire had been set that morning but not lit and the room felt unusually cool.

“You may now tell me the truth,” Mrs Ellison began. “Where are my father and mother living?”

Isobel grimaced. Was she so bad a liar these days? “I don’t—”

“The truth, Isobel,” her mother interrupted crisply.

“They have rented a house here on the square – number 7,” she said and Mrs Ellison went straight to the window and looked out at the street. “And you will call on them when you return from London.”

“No. I want them both here – now.”

“Mother, no,” she begged. “You have been looking forward to this day for such a long time don’t allow them to ruin it.”

“They are my parents,” Mrs Ellison replied, her voice rising.

“The same parents who cut you off when you married Father and who are now suddenly here in Dublin for your marriage to a gentleman they approve of.”

That made her mother flinch and Isobel hoped she hadn’t gone too far.

“I want them both here – now,” Mrs Ellison repeated quietly, walking to the rope and ringing for a servant.

“Very well.” Isobel reached for the doorknob.

“And I want you, Alfie, James and Will here when they arrive.”

Letting her hand drop to her side, Isobel walked to the window turning momentarily to the door as the butler came in then watched a ginger cat squeeze between the railings surrounding the Fitzwilliam Square gardens before disappearing from view.

“You rang, Mrs Ellison.”

“Gorman, please, send someone to number 7 and ask that Mr and Mrs Greene join Mr and Mrs Ellison for luncheon and to meet their families. Oh, and this means there will be two extra for luncheon.”

“Yes, Mrs Ellison.”

“And ask my husband, son and son-in-law to join myself and my daughter here.”

“Yes, Mrs Ellison.”

The butler left the room and Isobel pulled a face, only turning around again when the door opened and James, Alfie and Will came in.

“I have sent for my parents,” Mrs Ellison announced and Isobel met Will’s brown eyes for a moment. “And, no, Isobel does not approve of my decision but I want them both here on my wedding day.”

There was no response, Mrs Ellison gave a little shrug and the five of them waited in a tense silence until voices were heard in the hall and the butler came into the room.

“Mr Greene,” Gorman announced, the elderly gentleman walked in and Isobel peered behind him. Where was his wife? Why wasn’t she here? And why hadn’t she accompanied her husband to St Peter’s Church?

“Martha.” Mr Greene went to his daughter reaching out his hands. “Oh, let me look at you.” Clasping her hands, he stood back with a smile. “Oh, how I have missed you.”

Isobel clenched her fists and banged them against her thighs in frustration as her mother burst into tears. How could she be so forgiving?

“And I have missed you.” Her mother smiled through her tears. “Oh, Father…” Holding him to her, the two cried unashamedly.

Isobel glanced at Will who returned a helpless expression while Alfie began to shuffle uncomfortably and James examined his hands.

When the two finally stopped sobbing, Mrs Ellison wiped her tears away with her fingers and looked over her father’s shoulder.

“I must introduce you to my family, Father. This is James Ellison – my husband.”

James joined them and greeted his new and unexpected father-in-law with admirable calm politeness.

“Alfie?” his mother called and he shuffled forward. “My son, Alfie, is a medical student at Trinity College.”

“A budding doctor, eh?” his grandfather commented.

“I have wanted to be nothing else,” he replied.

“And this is my daughter, Isobel, and her husband, Will,” her mother continued and she braced herself as Will took her hand, led her to them and her grandfather inclined his head politely.

“Your concern for your mother is commendable, Isobel.”

“I do not wish to see my mother upset – especially on today of all days.”

“But I am not upset,” her mother protested with an almost hysterical laugh which made her cringe. “I am absolutely delighted to have my father here today.”

“Where is Grandmother?” she asked on behalf of them all and he gave her a little smile, no doubt having expected her question.

“Resting,” he answered simply and she didn’t believe him for a second.

Quickly realising she wasn’t going to reply, her mother gestured to Will.

“This is my son-in-law, Dr Will Fitzgerald.”

“Are you a Dublin man?” Mr Greene inquired.

“Yes, I am,” Will replied. “I was born and brought up on Merrion Square.”

“Isobel and Will have twins – a boy and a girl – Ben and Belle – who are five months old,” Mrs Ellison went on. “And they are raising Will’s nephew, John, who is almost four.”

“I am a great-grandfather.” Mr Greene smiled and shook his head. “Good gracious me. I may be as old as the century, but this news makes me feel utterly antiquated.”

“I think we should go upstairs and introduce Mr Greene to our guests,” James suggested and his wife nodded.

“And luncheon will be served soon.”

They went up the stairs to the pleasantly warm drawing room where Mrs Ellison introduced her father – wheezing after the climb – to the guests. Will’s mother, in particular, was astonished, Sarah having assumed her friend’s parents were both long dead.

“You don’t seem at all happy to finally meet your grandfather, Isobel,” Will’s father commented and she sighed, taking his arm and leading him to a relatively quiet corner.

“My grandparents cut Mother off when she ran away from home to marry my father just days after her twenty-first birthday and yet here they both are in Dublin – twenty-five years later.”

“Your grandfather has the pallor and laboured breathing of a very ill man,” he said as they observed Mr Greene now leaning heavily on her mother’s arm and she nodded.

“Grandfather is dying and my mother does not know – and will not know – until she and James return from London.”

“Of course. They live in Co Mayo, don’t they?”

“They did, but not anymore, apparently. They are renting number 7.”

“Here on Fitzwilliam Square?” John Fitzgerald’s eyebrows shot up.

“Yes. I think their move to Dublin and my grandfather’s ‘sudden’ appearance at the church were very carefully planned, despite his words to the contrary,” she said as Will came to them.

“James seems rather stunned, what do you think of all this?” his father asked.

“Poor James is walking on eggshells,” Will replied. “He did not expect to acquire parents-in-law. I agree with Isobel that Mr Greene’s ‘sudden’ appearance has taken careful planning, so I am rather… wary.”

“Well, do not agree to be your grandfather-in-law’s doctor whatever you do.”

Will shot his father a sharp look. “I’m sure Mr Greene already has a doctor.”

“My namesake didn’t look too happy to be wearing a skirt.” John swiftly changed the subject.

“He wasn’t happy,” Will confirmed. “He hated his ‘dress’. But when I left him at number 30 with Zaineb, he went running up the stairs ahead of her for his short trousers immediately.”

A quarter of an hour later, they all sat down to the wedding luncheon – a place setting for Mrs Greene having been added and then quickly taken away. Isobel glanced at Will’s estranged parents, placed opposite each other at the huge dining table. Living separately – although under the same roof at number 67 Merrion Square – John and Sarah had behaved impeccably at Ben, Belle and young John’s joint christenings and could put on a show of togetherness when required.

Isobel was seated between John and one of James’ brothers and, although she spoke politely with both men, she couldn’t rid herself of the shock and anger of her grandfather’s unexpected arrival. She had rarely thought of either her paternal or maternal grandparents over the years. Her father’s parents had both died long before Alfie and she were born and she had never expected to meet her mother’s father and mother.

Mr and Mrs Ellison were to leave by cab at five o’clock. It would take them to the North Wall Quay passenger terminus and the boat to Holyhead in Wales. From there, they would travel to London by train. Isobel went upstairs with her mother and helped her to put on an exquisite three-quarter length ‘going away’ coat and hat made from the same gold and emerald green satin as the wedding dress.

“Promise me one thing,” Mrs Ellison said as Isobel opened the bedroom door. “Promise me you won’t row with your grandfather while James and I are in London. I know you are not at all happy at his rather sudden appearance.”

“I cannot promise you that, Mother,” she replied truthfully.

“In that case, I would like you to keep away from him – and your grandmother.”

Isobel’s jaw dropped. “Keep away?”

“Yes, Isobel, keep away. Yes, they hurt me deeply – cutting me off when I married your father – and I appreciate your wish to protect me from any further distress. But until I have the opportunity to sit down with them and determine whether their move to Dublin is temporary or permanent and what either could mean for us all, I would like you to keep away from them – please?”

Isobel gave a little shrug. “I can only promise you that I shall not call on them. But if they call on me…” She tailed off intentionally and her mother sighed but nodded.

“Yes, it is natural that they would wish to see their great-grandchildren.”

Is it, Isobel wondered. Today was the first occasion Mr Greene had set eyes on his grandchildren, never mind his great-grandchildren, even though he has no doubt known of us all and where we live for quite some time.

“And now it is time for you to go,” she said, hugging and kissing her mother. “Have a lovely time in London.”

“I’ll try.”

They went downstairs and she kissed James goodbye. He smiled before giving her a firm nod, silently telling her he would ensure his new wife enjoyed her honeymoon.

Explore my blog for more excerpts, character profiles and historical background information

The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Series

Buy A Discarded Son: The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Book Three for

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Or read A Discarded Son: The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Book Three FREE with 

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Buy the A Discarded Son paperback at

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Amazon ASIN: B07FDB3B3W

Paperback ISBN: 9781723286810

Fitzgeralds Series ASIN: B07W4WRWGM

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Author: Lorna Peel

Title: A Discarded Son

Series: The Fitzgeralds of Dublin

Genre: Irish Historical Fiction

Cover Designer: Rebecca K. Sterling, Sterling Design Studio

Ebook and Print Formatting: Polgarus Studio

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Cover photo credit: Wilhelm Roentgen (1845-1923), German physicist, received the first Nobel Prize for Physics, in 1901, for his discovery of X-rays in 1895: Everett Historical/Shutterstock.com and Portrait of a man in a top hat and morning suit holding a cane: Everett Historical/Shutterstock.com
Cover photo credit: Florence Court, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland: phb.cz/Depositphotos.com
Photo credit: John Singer Sargent – Mrs Henry White – Irina via Flickr.com / CC BY 4.0
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Meet A Discarded Son’s Lewis and Tilda Greene

Tilda and Lewis Greene Colourised

Lewis Greene is eighty-one years old and is landlord of the Greene Hall estate near Westport in Co Mayo, Ireland. His wife, Matilda (Tilda) Greene, nee Walker, is seventy-five years old. They married in 1834 and Tilda fell pregnant soon afterwards but it wasn’t until she gave birth that it was discovered she was carrying twins. Martha, Isobel Fitzgerald’s mother, was born first but the second baby took a long time to be born. It was a boy – an heir to the Greene Hall estate – and he was named Miles.

Soon, however, it became evident that Miles was not developing like other children. He was examined by the Greene’s doctor and he was deemed to be – in the terminology of the time – a ‘simpleton’ or an ‘idiot’.

Tilda blamed herself and could not bear to even look at her son and when she claimed he was beginning to frighten Martha, Lewis made the decision to send Miles away to St Patrick’s Hospital in Dublin – an asylum where he could be cared for properly. Lewis watched his year-old son being driven away in a carriage down the drive then let it be known that Miles had died and a large funeral was held for him.

Lewis and Tilda hoped they would have another son who would inherit the estate, but it was not to be and Martha had an isolated childhood, spending most of her time in the nursery with her nanny and nursery maid and then with her governess when the nursery became the schoolroom. A few days after her twenty-first birthday, Martha ran away to elope with the Reverend Edmund Stevens, the Church of Ireland (Anglican) curate of Ballyglas Parish and her parents disowned her.

Having lost both his children, Lewis’ interest in the Greene Hall estate dwindled and, as he aged, he spent more and more time in his library with his books. Tilda had more of an interest in the estate but the land agent, Mr Dudley, took no notice because she was a woman. Mr Dudley was given a free rein and, like many land agents, became feared and hated in the locality.

When Lewis’ health began to decline, Tilda devoted all her time to caring for him. But when Lewis’ doctor informs him that he has lung disease and it will kill him, Tilda is appalled and fearful when, not only do his thoughts turn to their son, but he resolves to go to Dublin and see Miles. Tilda does not want to go – both her children are dead to her – but Lewis insists and he has Knox, his butler, make inquiries as to the whereabouts of their daughter. Martha and her children are easy to locate, especially when the notice announcing the engagement between Martha and James Ellison is published in The Irish Times.

Lewis rents a house on Fitzwilliam Square and his granddaughter Isobel spots him in the congregation in St Peter’s Church on Aungier Street on her mother’s wedding day. That evening, Lewis confesses a secret to Isobel, her husband, Will, and her brother, Alfie – one which has been kept for over forty years – his son is alive – and he wants to see Miles one last time before he dies. This presents a huge conundrum. Martha believes her twin brother died at a year old and what, if anything, has Miles been told about his parents and family? How will he react when he is told that his mother does not wish to be reunited with him but that the father who sent him away to an asylum does? Will Lewis Greene ever get his dying wish?

Florence_Court_frontage

Dublin, Ireland, 1881. Isobel Fitzgerald’s mother, Martha, marries solicitor James Ellison but an unexpected guest overshadows their wedding day. Martha’s father is dying and he is determined to clear his conscience before it is too late. Lewis Greene’s confession ensures the Ellisons’ expectation of a quiet married life is gone and that Isobel’s elder brother, Alfie Stevens, will be the recipient of an unwelcome inheritance.

When a bewildering engagement notice is published in The Irish Times, the name of one of the persons concerned sends Will and Isobel on a race against time across Dublin and forces them to break a promise and reveal a closely guarded secret.

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Read an Excerpt from Chapter One…

Hurrying to the east side of the square as heavy drizzle began to fall, [Isobel] saw a small group of people bending over a figure lying on the pavement which surrounded the railings and the gardens.

“I am Dr Fitzgerald, stand back, please,” Will instructed and they did as he asked. She crouched down on one side of Mr Greene while Will knelt on the other and felt her grandfather’s neck for a pulse. “He’s alive,” he told her before running his fingers across the elderly man’s scalp. “But only just. And he’s very cold but, thankfully, there is no head injury. Are all of you servants in number 7?” he asked the group and one smartly-dressed man in his fifties stepped forward with Mr Greene’s top hat and walking cane in his hands.

“Yes, we are, Dr Fitzgerald,” he replied. “I am Knox, Mr and Mrs Greene’s butler.”

“Please ask for some water to be heated and round up as many hot water bottles as you can find.”

“Yes, Dr Fitzgerald.” The butler turned to a maid who accepted the top hat and cane from him and ran across the street and down the areaway steps.

“Please help me carry Mr Greene upstairs to a bedroom.”

Isobel picked up Will’s medical bag as he took Mr Greene’s shoulders and Knox gripped Mr Greene’s ankles. She tailed them as her grandfather was borne across the street, up the steps and into the gas-lit hall but she halted at the front door.

“Where is Mrs Greene?” she asked a red-haired maid about to go down the areaway steps.

“I am here,” a severe voice announced from behind her and Isobel turned around.

At five feet eight inches, Isobel was considered tall for a woman. Standing in the morning room doorway, her grandmother was equally tall but as thin as Isobel was curvaceous. Plaited wavy grey hair was wound into a bun at the nape of her neck and she wore a purple satin dress. Mrs Greene looked her and then Will up and down, taking in her hastily tied-back hair and his lack of hat, collar and cravat. An eyebrow rose and Isobel fought to control a flush of embarrassment.

“Tell me what is needed and you shall have it,” her grandmother added crisply.

“Thank you, we shall,” Isobel replied before closing the front door and following the others up the stairs.

Her grandfather was brought to a large bedroom on the second floor at the front of the house and laid on the double bed. Will unbuttoned Mr Greene’s overcoat and raised him into a sitting position so the butler could peel it off. Discreetly turning her back, Isobel accepted her grandfather’s clothes from Knox as they were removed layer by layer. The overcoat was wet and the other clothes were damp and couldn’t be hung up in the huge mahogany wardrobe so she draped them over the back of a balloon-back bedroom chair so they could be taken away to be dried and aired.

When she turned back, Mr Greene was lying on the bed dressed in a white nightshirt and Will was returning a thermometer to his medical bag. Lifting out his stethoscope, he raised her grandfather into a sitting position again and Knox held Mr Greene’s shoulders while Will listened to his phlegmatic breathing and put the stethoscope away fighting back a grimace. Her grandfather was painfully thin and as Will lifted him up, Isobel pulled the bedcovers back. Mr Greene was placed in the bed and she covered him up to his chin.

“I asked for hot water bottles, where are they?” Will asked.

“I’ll go and see, Dr Fitzgerald.” The butler strode to the door and left the room.

“Does he have hypothermia?” she asked.

“No, but it could develop,” Will replied as the door opened again and her grandmother came in. “He must have been lying on the pavement since he left number 55 two hours ago.”

“My husband was determined to return there and speak with you and I assumed he was still with you,” Mrs Greene informed them. “Did not one of you offer to escort him back here?”

“I did,” Will said. “But he declined.”

“Will he live?” she asked, walking to the bed and gently smoothing long and bony fingers over her husband’s sparse white hair.

“Mr Greene is very cold but his temperature must be raised slowly,” Will said as a footman and two maids hurried into the room each carrying two hot water bottles and Isobel lowered the bedcovers. “Place all of them in the bed – not too close to Mr Greene – good. Thank you.”

“Can nothing else be done for him?” her grandmother asked as the servants left the bedroom and Isobel pulled the bedcovers up again.

“Sit with him, Mrs Greene, have the hot water bottles refilled every two hours, and raise his temperature.”

“Well.” Mrs Greene went to the bedroom chair and sat down, clasping her hands tightly together on her lap. “The boy has finally proved to be the death of my husband. My husband insisted on coming to Dublin. He insisted on reacquainting himself with Martha. And he insisted on telling you about the boy.”

‘The boy’ was now a man in his mid-forties but Isobel bit her tongue.

“You did not want Grandfather to meet Mother again?” Isobel asked and her grandmother fixed a cold stare on her.

“Your mother could have married into Lord Sligo’s family but she chose to run away from home and marry the curate of Ballyglas Parish. I knew the marriage would be disastrous and so it proved. She sent many letters bemoaning her situation and begging my husband and I to take her and her children in but, as you make your bed, so you must lie in it.”

“She told you Father was violent and you did nothing?” Isobel demanded.

“I burned the letters,” her grandmother replied matter-of-factly. “Your mother had made her choice and so she must live with that choice.”

“I did grasp your initial meaning,” Isobel replied tightly.

“I am so glad the items she stole from Greene Hall to pay for your excessively expensive education at Cheltenham Ladies College and for your brother’s at Harrow didn’t altogether go to waste.”

Isobel’s jaw dropped. “She stole from Greene Hall?”

“You thought that despite our pleas to your mother not to marry a man unworthy of her, your grandfather paid her marriage portion?” Mrs Greene smiled humourlessly. “No. He did not. Yours and your brother’s education were paid for by stolen property. Unfortunately, you chose to waste every penny by whoring yourself to a farm boy.”

“I did not whore myself to James,” she retorted, clenching her fists but unable to stop herself shaking with rage. “He seduced me.”

“You exude an overt sensuality, Isobel, which men are unable to resist,” her grandmother told her crisply, making a point of looking her up and down again. “I doubt very much if he needed too much of an excuse to get you on your back.”

“That is enough,” Will snapped and Mrs Greene gave him an icy smile.

“Took a fancy to Isobel in her parlourmaid’s uniform, did you, Dr Fitzgerald? Most men would not wish to touch soiled goods.”

“You have said quite enough. Isobel – we’re leaving.”

Explore my blog for more excerpts, character profiles and historical background information

Fitzgerald series Books

Buy A Discarded Son: The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Book Three for

Kindle

Or read A Discarded Son: The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Book Three FREE with 

download

Buy the A Discarded Son paperback at

amazon  Book Depository  blackwells  Booktopia  Fishpond AU  Fishpond NZ  BAM  Indie Bound  TRB

Amazon ASIN: B07FDB3B3W

Paperback ISBN: 9781723286810

goodreads11-1024x409

Author: Lorna Peel

Title: A Discarded Son

Series: The Fitzgeralds of Dublin

Genre: Irish Historical Fiction

Cover Designer: Rebecca K. Sterling, Sterling Design Studio

Ebook and Print Formatting: Polgarus Studio

newsletter-295x300

facebook-48x48  twitter-48x48  pinterest-48x48  mewe-500-2  goodreads-48x48  Wordpress  instagram_app_large_may2016_200  newsletter  BookBub Icon

Cover photo credit: Wilhelm Roentgen (1845-1923), German physicist, received the first Nobel Prize for Physics, in 1901, for his discovery of X-rays in 1895: Everett Historical/Shutterstock.com and Portrait of a man in a top hat and morning suit holding a cane: Everett Historical/Shutterstock.com
Cover photo credit: Florence Court, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland: phb.cz/Depositphotos.com
Photo credit: A portrait of an elderly couple: The digital photographic collections of the Community Archives of Belleville and Hastings County, based in Belleville, Ontario: Public Domain Mark 1.0
Photo credit: Florence Court, near Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh, Northern Ireland – by Andrew Humphreys and used under CC BY-SA 2.5

My Favourite Bookshop

An article in today’s Irish Times made me think about bookshops. Being an e-book, Only You will only be available to purchase online, and I have fed my new Kindle with some good e-books, but I still love to browse for physical books in a physical bookshop!

kindle

The bookshop which came the closest to being my favourite moved out of my local town centre last year. I was extremely disappointed as it was where I would buy the vast majority of my genealogy, history, and especially local history books. It also had a wide selection of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. It did not simply stock the Top Ten. It was quite small, and it didn’t have a coffee shop, but the staff were helpful and I enjoyed browsing and buying there.

So what is left book-wise in my local town? Well, there is a shop which doesn’t really know what it wants to be. Newsagent? Stationers? Gift shop? Bookshop? It’s a bit of a jumble stock-wise and I rarely shop there. The only other bookshop in the town used to be a second hand bookshop and still has the air of one. I know that sounds snobbish but it really could do with a makeover and I find it just the wrong side of gloomy. It also has quite a strange range of books – the very cheap and the very expensive – and not much in between.

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Increasingly, I find myself browsing for books in the increasing numbers of charity shops popping up in towns all over Ireland. You never know what you might find in charity shops, and you do find the odd gem amongst the numerous copies of Angela’s Ashes, but I now find myself buying the vast majority of my physical books online.

Even when I’m over in the UK, I notice the number of bookshops decreasing each time I visit the town nearest to where my Mum lives. One of the branches of Waterstones I used to work in is now gone, it was merged with another branch nearby. The second hand bookshop I loved, as it was absolutely crammed with books from floor to ceiling in every category imaginable, has also gone. I really miss that one as it had lots of British history books I just wouldn’t find here in Ireland. I picked up quite a few books to feed my interest in Richard III and The Wars of the Roses in that shop.

books-2

I also found a copy of Thom’s Directory there. It is an Irish commercial and street directory and is very useful in genealogy research. I rarely find them on sale so I bought it and because it is so thick and heavy – about two or three kilos – I had to bring it home in my hand luggage. Naturally, I got stopped at security at Stansted Airport as this huge mass showed up on their screens and they couldn’t figure out what it was. I had to lift the huge book out of my bag to show them and the security man looked at it, looked at me, then said, “Like reading, do you?” LOL

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There is one independent bookshop left on the High Street in that town and I wonder for how long it can survive? Luckily, the town has a vast number of charity shops – twenty-nine at my last count – and I can spend a full day ‘doing’ them all.

The Irish Times article is Dublin-specific, but back in the day when I used to regularly travel to Dublin to undertake genealogy research, I could plan my route to and from the station via all the city centre bookshops! I haven’t been in Dublin in quite a while and I wonder how many of them are still there as the article doesn’t mention quite a few of the bookshops I remember. Back when I could still eat cheese, the café in Hodges Figgis used to do a delicious Tuna Melt sandwich!

tuna melt

Recently, HMV in Ireland has shut up shop so, locally, there is nowhere I can find a good selection of non-Top Ten DVDs now. I realised sadly the other day that there are now no shops I would go to town to browse in – they’ve all gone. It’s such a shame that there is now less and less choice. Yes, shopping online is cheap and convenient but I do miss being able to browse in a bookshop and, more than likely, buy something. The online retailers must be rubbing their hands together with glee.

Lucy’s Lesson – A Short Story

Lucy's Lesson Page 1 November 1996 Lucy's Lesson Page 2

A short story from 1996!

The Books Which Shaped My Life

When I was little I devoured everything Enid Blyton wrote – The Famous Five, The Secret Seven, Malory Towers, St. Clair’s – everything! I then moved on to anything with horses in it, Nancy Drew, and the Sweet Valley High series. Then hormones kicked in and I went through a pop music magazine phase – Smash Hits and Number One. After that I moved on to adult books but whenever I think of my childhood books, I think of Enid Blyton.

My favourite author as an adult is Sharon Kay Penman. I bought her doorstopper The Sunne in Splendour when I was on a school trip to Belfast. The sheer length of it (886 pages) intimidated me for a couple of years but when I did read it, I loved it, and I managed to track down all her other novels while I was at college in Dublin. Her latest, Lionheart, is on my Amazon wishlist!

I also love her Welsh trilogy (Here Be Dragons; Falls The Shadow; The Reckoning) about the last years of independent Wales, not just because of the brilliant writing but because I was brought up in North Wales and I have either been to, or know of most of the locations in the books. I can read them again and again.

Another of my favourite authors is Phil Rickman, who writes the Merrily Watkins mystery series. Merrily is a single mum, a Church of England (Anglican) priest but she is also a Diocesan Exorcist, so there is often a paranormal twist to the mysteries. Every book in the series is a great and unique read!

Honourable mentions go to Star of the Sea, Joseph O’Connor’s famine epic; the late Diana Norman, author of Daughter of Lir a brilliant novel about Ireland just before the Norman Conquest; and Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy, probably the saddest book I’ve read yet.

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